By and large, the NFL is a young man's game. Back in 2017, the Elias Sports Bureau found that the league had the youngest average age of any professional American sport at 26.6 years old. That narrowly edged the NBA (26.8) and NHL (27.4) and easily cleared MLB (29.2)
Careers are short — they average only 3.3 years — and teams are quick to cut bait on veterans with big cap hits. But there are still a few football iron men who keep proving that age is just a number and that they'll leave the game on their own terms when they're good and ready.
For a moment, a new oldest NFL player was crowned this offseason. Tom Brady announced his retirement on Feb. 1, leaving soon-to-be-Super-Bowl-champion Andrew Whitworth as the oldest active player. But the GOAT's retirement only lasted 40 days, and Whitworth decided to go out on top two days later with his first ring.
Eight players will enter the 2022 campaign in their age-38 season. But we're here mainly to focus on the players longest in the tooth. Here's a look at the oldest NFL players still active in the league. For our purposes, we're only considering players who appeared in a game last season and are active — apologies to Richie Incognito, Frank Gore, and others.
Nick Folk, K, New England Patriots
Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay Packers
Matt Prater, K, Arizona Cardinals
Clark Harris, LS, Cincinnati Bengals
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Green Bay Packers
8. Aaron Rodgers
Age: 38 (Born Dec. 2, 1983)
Team: Green Bay Packers
17th NFL Season
It's almost hard to believe that Aaron Rodgers is one of the oldest players in the NFL since he didn't start a game until 2008. All he's done since that, though, is earn 10 Pro Bowl nods and three MVPs — with a fourth one likely on the way. His only blemish is a singular Super Bowl victory; Rodgers is 11-10 in the playoffs after starting 4-1. Rodgers' future with the Packers is up in the air after he tried to force a trade last offseason, but whichever team he plays for in 2022 will be a Super Bowl contender.
7. Robbie Gould
Age: 39 (Born Dec. 6, 1982)
Team: San Francisco 49ers
17th NFL Season
Bears fans are still wondering why Chicago released Gould in 2016 to save money because they've been looking for a consistent kicker ever since. And Gould has still been effective into his late-30s, leading the league with 39 made field goals in 2017 and a 97.1 percent field goal rate in 2018. Gould leads all active players (ignoring Stephen Gostkowski, who has not retired but didn't play last season) with 1,830 points and will crack the top 10 with just 83 more points. He's also 11th in field goals made (420) seventh in field goal percentage (86.6 percent), and 17th in extra points made (570).
6. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Age: 39 (Born Nov. 24, 1982)
Team: Washington Commanders
17th NFL Season
Fitzpatrick's nine teams are the most any quarterback has played for in NFL history, and he's made almost every stop interesting. While never good enough to become a long-term starter, he's been an overqualified backup with flashes of "FitzMagic" brilliance. There's been plenty of good (surpassing 400 yards in a game four times in 2018 with the Bucs), bad (59-87-1 career record), and ugly (league-leading 23 interceptions in 2011 for the Bills) play. If nothing else, Fitzpatrick, a Harvard alum, will be known as perhaps the best Ivy League player in the NFL — unless Kyle Juszczyk wrestles that title from him.
5. Sam Koch
Age: 39 (Born Aug. 13, 1982)
Team: Baltimore Ravens
16th NFL Season
The Ravens made Koch the first punter off the board when they took him in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, and he's been more than they ever could've hoped. Koch has spent his entire career with Baltimore and has only missed one game. He's been a model of consistency, with 45.3 yards per punt and the ninth most punts in NFL history (1,168). Koch was named to his only Pro Bowl and All-Pro team in 2015 and owns several Ravens franchise records, including for games played (256), punts inside the 20 (453), and longest punt (74 yards).
4. Andy Lee
Age: 39 (Born Aug. 11, 1982)
Team: Arizona Cardinals
18th NFL Season
Born just two days before Koch, Lee narrowly gets the edge on this list and also narrowly has an edge in career punts (1,399). Additionally, he ranks eighth all-time in yards per punt (46.6) and has made three Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams. Lee led the NFL in punts four times and yardage three times, while also leading the league in yards per punt twice and longest punt (81, 82) twice. in 2021, Lee broke a tie with Dan Marino and Larry Fitzgerald as the longest-tenured Pitt Panther in the NFL.
3. Dustin Colquitt
Age: 39 (Born May 6, 1982)
Team: Cleveland Browns
17th NFL Season
As you can tell, punters can have quite the longevity since they don't take hit like other positions in football, and Colquitt has strong bloodlines to boot. His father, Craig, punted for the Steelers and Colts, and his younger brother Britton could threaten to make this list if he signs with a team this offseason. Dustin doesn't have the punting average of Koch or Lee (44.8), but he does rank second in NFL history with 483 punts inside the 20-yard line. A two-time Pro Bowler, he won a Super Bowl in 2019 with the Chiefs, whom he spent his first 15 years with, and has bounced between four teams the past two seasons.
2. Jason Peters
Age: 40 (Born Jan. 22, 1982)
Position: Offensive Tackle
Team: Chicago Bears
17th NFL Season
Peters was perhaps the premier NFL left tackle for a nine-year stretch, making the Pro Bowl every season from 2007 to '16 with the Bills and Eagles. That's an incredible career for any player, let alone one who went undrafted out of Arkansas in 2004. Peters has earned $117.3 million over his career, according to Spotrac, and earned a spot on the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team. His last game of the season came 13 days before his 40th birthday, but if he plays in 2022, he'll join Ray Brown, Bruce Matthews, Jackie Slater, Jeff Van Note, and the guy atop this list as the only offensive linemen to play in the NFL in their 40s.
1. Tom Brady
Age: 44 (Born Aug. 3, 1977)
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
22nd NFL Season
To think he was once a doughy, slow-footed, marginal pro prospect staring forlornly at the camera in his NFL Combine photo. Little was expected out of this sixth-round draft pick from Michigan, and given his measurables, could you blame the experts for dismissing him? But here we are — 21 seasons, 17 division titles, and four Super Bowl MVP awards later. Brady stands as arguably the greatest (and inarguably the winningest and most decorated) quarterback in NFL history. Oh, and did we mention that he has six Super Bowl rings?